Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons Review – Retro SRPG for Modern Gamers

    Title: Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons
    Developer: Rideon
    Release Date: December 17, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Circle Entertainment
    Genre: SRPG

Very few SRPG really have the staying power that Final Fantasy Tactics brought to the genre years ago. However, that doesn’t stop developers from trying to create similar experiences for modern audiences. A series that has grown on me is developer Rideon’s Mercenaries titles. Each game evolves in a few different ways to give fans a memorable and sometimes nostalgic experience. The newest entry Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons, does that and more and only seems to stumble on capitalizing on the narrative that otherwise has a decent foundation.

Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons introduces us to Lester and his Twin Dragons guild. As the leader, he takes on jobs for money to make ends meet, but the world is in a not-so-good place. For starters, religious beliefs have turned the people of the land on any immigrants. The church demands that if you want to stay, you’ll have to convert to their religion or you will be put in a camp.

The Twin Dragons are often the group called to rally up these immigrants and bring them to camp. It’s a touchy subject for some of the members who are legal immigrants, but they don’t seem to have a huge problem with it in the end. The story likes to try to create these moments of “You don’t understand!” between the members, but it falls flat given that they’ve been a group for so long that it just makes it seem off that it’s just now an issue.

The story deals with racism in many moments but never really goes all-in, leaving much of the big reveals to obvious bad guys’ ulterior motives. However, there are decent moments of interaction between the characters as we see how they approach each job. There’s a moment in the game where you’re given a choice to choose a path, which was definitely a difficult one considering the decision’s weight. It’s best to save after each mission because once this choice comes, you’re stuck with it.

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Story aside, Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons has some excellent SRPG battle scenarios that revolve around story and side missions. The story missions offer some pretty epic events where you’ll rush in and then be ambushed by other enemies, or something happens that demands a response. However, the more complex scenarios happen in later chapters, with the first few being more straightforward to act as a tutorial.

Side missions are generally reused story mission maps full of enemies to defeat. These are a little easier with the enemies being lower level, but it’s a great way to farm experience and gold for the more difficult story missions. The only problem is that you can totally cheese your way through the game since you can repeatedly play the same side mission. Further, there’s an auto-battle feature that should not be used during a story mission due to difficulty but could easily get you through each turn of a side mission. No, you can’t set it and forget it either. Each turn, you have to turn on auto-battle, and there are also ways to customize this.

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The game dictates beginning character classes, and new troops will join your cause throughout the campaign. After a specific level, each class can evolve to become a new class, which changes their stats and grants access to new Techniques. SP is earned through battles and can be used to learn these Techniques and also level them up. It’s all pretty straightforward, and it’s also possible to get through much of the game without really paying attention to this.

Characters also have a special attack that consumes BP and is unique to each character. Pretty much any action you take other than moving and waiting will gain you EXP in a battle, and the game isn’t stingy on dishing out experience to characters. The difficulty comes in with limited item stocking and MP, which creates a nice challenge during campaign stages even if you are over-leveled.

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Graphically, I find Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons to be gorgeous. There are several memorable map designs, and the characters’ appearance change depending on their equipment. What’s notable is the high amount of accessibility features that aim to make your time with the game easier. Things such as an auto-save that can be customized by turns, auto-equip with several options, and easy to understand stats are just a few ways the team shows they understand this genre and what the fans want.

Sadly, I don’t feel the all of the elements brought up in the story were fully executed. The angle of racism set a nice foundation, but you can see the ending from a mile away, and I wish the team took the dual storylines in a more significant direction as it’s all just a bit dry and basic. Even though following this quest is fun, this game’s epic nature is something we’ve seen before. I should note that the soundtrack could use a few more significant songs as I felt like I heard the same ones multiple times.

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Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons is a great entry in this SRPG series that takes retro systems and adds modern elements to make it stand proudly next to the greats. Its story doesn’t stick, but it also attempts to tackle some significantly difficult topics. Thankfully, the battle systems and accessibility options are sound and make this game a joy to experience.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.